NEW laws to make it easier to prosecute reckless jet-ski and speedboat drivers could be introduced to help improve safety in Island bays.
The changes – which are out for public consultation – seek to bolster existing maritime legislation under which someone can be prosecuted, and include new offences to cover situations in which a person has caused death or serious injury while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or through careless operation of their craft.
If approved, the new legislation would also give the police and Harbourmaster the authority to require a breath test from a suspect during the course of an investigation into a serious injury or death.
The definition of a ‘ship’ would be altered to include smaller vessels used solely for social activities on the water, such as jet-skis and smaller speedboats.
The potential amendments have been welcomed by well-known long-distance swimmer Sally Minty-Gravett, who said jet-skis and speedboats could become ‘lethal weapons’ when operating near other water users.
Deputy Chief Minister Kirsten Morel said the government did not think there were instances of ‘prosecution avoidance’ under the existing legislation, but added that he believed it was ‘worth addressing’.
‘It’s important that Jersey’s inshore waters are safe for people to enjoy and these changes are designed to ensure accountability when an individual causes harm to others in Jersey waters by behaving carelessly and reflecting this more clearly in law. The agencies that protect Jersey’s coastline are second to none and no one is at additional risk as a sea user in advance of any change,’ he continued.
Mrs Minty-Gravett said: ‘Jet-skis and speedboats can be lethal weapons with swimmers in the water. I think the laws should come forward.
‘Everybody should look out for each other.’
Under the Island’s Shipping (Jersey) Law 2002, the definition of a ‘ship’ includes ‘every description of vessel used in navigation’, which means that smaller craft – including jet-skis – are not covered as they could be used purely for social activities without having to navigate between two points.
The government has said that changing the definition to include such vessels would therefore ‘remove legal anomalies which currently allow some seafarers to use Jersey’s waters at a lower level of legal responsibility to others’.
The consultation opened yesterday and can be found on the gov.je website.